Does your community rely heavily on tagging? What tips do you have?

I had a really interesting conversation with a UX designer in our organization yesterday. We were digging into the current usage patterns we see in our community and our goals for transparency and discoverability. They had some really interesting ideas on the topic of discoverability and want to explore what can be done with tags more.

For a number of reasons, we’re starting to consider that perhaps we should do something like:

  1. Change our default home page from Latest to Categories
  2. Use the Categories + Latest style for the categories page
  3. Stop using subcategories (?)
  4. Build up our capacity to leverage tags for navigation and discoverability instead of subcategories

The switch to using the categories page instead of latest to start is to help newcomers have a sense of the breadth of the site without having to parse a diverse list of topics, which may not be fully representative of the different subjects at any given time. At the same time, showing latest still let’s folks see “what’s happening now”.

But beyond a single level of categorization, it’s hard to fit things into one clear subcategory.

We think tags may help relieve the pressure here, and additionally enable more community participation in determining the taxonomy for organizing material on the site.

But in order to really have tags aid in discoverability, it seems we need to surface them in more intentional ways, and provide more guidance for community curation. Some thoughts we have:

  1. Show popular tags within a given category underneath that category on the new home page
  2. On a given category topic list page, show popular tags within that category above the topic list (perhaps in something tag cloud form?)
  3. On a given tag topic list page, show other tags that are frequently used with that tag
  4. Require some minimum number of tags on a given post
  5. Suggest possible tags based on the content of a topic after it’s written
  6. Suggest possible tags to add to a topic after a new post is written
  7. Suggest possible tags to add to a topic as it’d being read.
  8. When a new tag is added, nudge people with questions like:
    • Have you checked if there’s an existing tag that means the same thing?
    • Cool! A new tag! Are there other existing topics that should get this tag?
  9. On the main /tags page, automatically organize them some how in their frequency and relationship to each other
  10. Have some semi-automated garbage collection of tags that have little or no frequency, or effectively push them to the sidelines in the UI

I’m sure some of these things have come up before here (I can come back and edit the above if there are clear topics to link to for a given item). But I wanted to just paint the picture in broad strokes and do a bit of a brain dump for some of the ideas kicking around.

And I’m very interested to hear from folks that are actively managing or participating in any other communities that rely heavily on tagging. What have your experiences been like? What works well? What’s challenging?

Our site is private, so I can’t show you what we’re starting with, unfortunately. If you’re in the same boat, I understand :slight_smile:. But if your site is public and you can link to examples, please do.

Bonus points: Include links to any topics on your forum that describe guidelines for tagging or using tags to discover content in your community.



We just started working on it. Tags, subcategories-a huge field for activity. Since 2001, I have been engaged in site directories, and search for these sites using Nutch. Had as editor of attitude to … Creating the right structure is difficult.

Tags that I think should be brought to a more prominent place and they should be used. We are now working on custom fields in tags. Because I would like to expand the functionality etc.

But one thing is clear. Tags should be used as much as possible. Their functionality should be expanded.


We’ve been moving over to a tags-based system and think tags have huge potential - they not only help with categorisation, but also allow people to watch/subscribe to tags that are important to them while also providing a convenient way to quickly scan the list of topics to see if any interest them (more helpful as a forum gets busier).

Have a look here:

With regards to categories - don’t restrict yourself or have hard or fast rules - sometimes sub-categories will be the right approach.

Re your other suggestions, I think we need a tags sub-category here for suggestions and brain-storming as I think tags could be HUGE and help differentiate and catapult Discourse ahead of other platforms :smiley: (I don’t think tags have been ‘done right’ on any other platform to date).


@AstonJ are there any meta topics on your forum that describe guidelines for tagging in your community?

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Not as of yet - my approach to anything new is to see how the community use it first, while trying to make things as intuitive and natural as possible.

So we have a min requirement of between 1 and 2 tags (depending on the category) and aim for tags to help identify what the topic is about. We also have tags for things like ‘stickies’ ‘wikis’ etc.

We use hyphens to separate words, unless a library uses an underscore in which case we respect their name.

Feel free to sign up and have a look around :smiley:


That’s a start. Thanks! We haven’t enforced any minimum number of tags anywhere yet, but I can see how that might go a long way. Did you adjust the maximum number of tags or keep it at the default of 5?

How much tag management do you find moderators doing (vs. normal users when they post, vs. TL3 edits)?

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Kept it to 5 for now.

If you want to focus on tags, I highly recommend setting a minimum of at least one per category and using one of the styles where they don’t just blend in to the background - which undervalues their importance (and will make people less inclined to use them).

To begin with, I was spending quite a bit of time appending tags, but I think most people have the hang of it now :slight_smile:


I agree this suggestions. Tags are essential part of Discourse but there is lack of a sophisticated tag interface in my opinion.

Also this may be a optional core feature: Discourse Popular Tag Sidebar